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Robert E Lee Promoted To Confederate General-in-Chief

Today on January 31, 1865, the Second Confederate States Congress appoints Robert E Lee to General-in-Chief of the Southern army.

Robert E Lee was the leading commander for the Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The majority of his time was spent commanding the Army of Northern Virginia. As a highly skilled military strategist and tactician, he experienced great successes during the initial years of the war. Throughout the Peninsula Campaign, Robert E Lee achieved impressive victories at the Battle of Second Bull Run, the Battle of Fredericksburg, and the Battle of Chancellorsville. But in July 1863, the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg turned out to be a significant turning point in the war. From that point on, Confederates forces were on the defensive. By 1864, it was clear that the bloody Civil War was finally reaching its inevitable end.

The Confederate army became increasingly short on manpower due to growing casualties, disease and desertion. Supplies and funding ran dangerously low, making it extremely difficult to maintain an effective fighting force. As the newly appointed General-in-Chief, Robert E Lee broke with tradition by flipping political positions. He immediately called for slaves to be enlisted and trained in the Confederate army. Lee emphasized, “We should employ slaves without delay, and provide gradual and general emancipation.” Although his orders were reluctantly enacted, the war came to an end a few short months later. These crucial African-American reinforcements never made it to the battlefield.

On April 9, 1865, Robert E Lee formally surrendered to General Ulysses Grant after failing to break through enemy lines at Appomattox Court House. Grant’s Union army outnumbered the southern forces by more than five times. Desertions were rapidly mounting, and the new General-in-Chief had run out of options. The two opposing commanders met at the home of Wilmer McLean shortly after lunchtime. Lee characteristically arrived in his full ceremonial uniform while Grant still had his muddied battlefield attire on. The next day, the Confederate General-in-Chief issued a final farewell address to his loyal soldiers. Some officers rejected the surrender and called for a guerrilla war to commence against the north. Lee denied all of these ideas and insisted the Civil War was definitively over. He subsequently played an important role in campaigning for reconciliation between the north and south. To this day, Southern States continue to venerate Robert E Lee as a brave and heroic figure.


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